Ask Ethan: What Has TESS Accomplished In Its First Year Of Science Operations?
“When it’s a bright, sunny day and you want to see an object in the sky that’s very close to the Sun, what do you do? You hold up a finger (or your whole hand) and block out the Sun, and then look for the nearby object that’s much intrinsically fainter than the Sun. This is exactly what telescopes equipped with coronagraphs do.
With the next generation of telescopes, this will enable us to finally directly-image planets around the closest stars to us, but only if we know where, when, and how to look. This is exactly the type of information that astronomers are gaining from TESS. By the time the James Webb Space Telescope launches in 2021, TESS will have completed its first sweep of the entire sky, providing a rich suite of tantalizing targets suitable for direct imaging. Our first picture of an Earth-like world may well be close on the horizon. Thanks to TESS, we’ll know exactly where to look.”
NASA’s TESS has completed its first year of science operations, where it’s just finished surveying the entire southern celestial hemisphere. With 13 separate observations of 27 days apiece, it’s managed to find over 800 candidate planets, including some spectacular examples of planetary systems that are unlike any we’ve ever seen before.